Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

If you frequent social media in any writerly circles, you’ll see references at this time of year to NaNoWriMo. What on earth is that? It’s shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, and the general idea is that you clear the decks for all of November, and write as much as you can each day, hoping to have a 50,000 word rough draft done by November 30.

This is year 30 for NaNo, and the official website shows about 800,000 people participating in this round. Doubtless many more are unofficially giving it a shot, or half a shot. People who find this exercise useful will schedule writing meet ups, make pep-talk-pacts, do on-line writing sprints together, and exchange accountability totals. Many a fine book got its start in the fun, grueling, determined, did-we-mention-grueling trenches of NaNo.

For me, every month is NaNoWriMo, but writing is my calling. Many others trying to hit the 50,000-word goal are raising children, holding down day jobs, maintaining primary relationships, and otherwise impersonating human beings. Coming up with the time and creative energy to average 1,666 words a day, without fail, is no mean feat.

The mentality of gutting it out for a month also characterizes the Whole-30 diet, which for many people is a fast from Everything They Hold Dear. No sugar, no booze, no legumes, no grains, no dairy, no MSG/sulfites/carrageenan. I’ve done it twice, with no apparent benefit (and a moderate sense of on-going deprivation), but what made it survivable was the knowledge that Day 31 was growing ever closer. The benefit of reduced systemic inflammation would supposedly be lasting, while the effort was time-limited.

I’ve also run across the Forty Bags in Forty Days decluttering challenge. The idea here originated with Lent (technically 46 days, but Sundays are for rest), and it’s fairly simple: Remove on average, one bag a day of clutter from your house every non-Sunday between Ash Wednesday and Easter Saturday. If you live in a spotless temple to organization and cleanliness, you can remove one item of clutter a day instead. The removed items can be donated to charity if appropriate or simply tossed.

These very different projects have several commonalities. NaNo, Whole-30, and 40 Bags are all social. They all come with forums, websites, FB groups, and a group effort element. They are all time-limited, and as the Whole-30 founder says, for thirty days, you can put up with black coffee. They all break down a significant challenge into day-by-day progress.

For me, anything that happens dans un troupeau is to be avoided. I don’t feel safe in crowds, I don’t like them, not even virtual crowds. There’s a force at work in crowds that weighs against individual awareness and judgment, and that’s a nope for me. But I do like the idea that in a relatively short period of time, I can nibble away at a big task, and get ‘er done. I like especially that at the end of my trudge, I will have something lasting to show for it (though clutter grows back, all by itself. It does).

When you have a big job to do, or a big change to make, how to you tackle it? Step by step? Blitz? Round up your team? Chase off all the non-essential personnel? To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Amazon gift card. I’ve also updated the Deals page for November, and the half-off title this month is Jack (who faced a big job, and didn’t have a lot of time to accomplish it).

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19 comments on “NaNo-Here-We-Go

  1. Most often, I break things down if I have a big job to do. It is not only a real technique but a *mind game* as well. If we know we have so much (and no more)to do today, we can do it.

    When I have a big project, I will certainly break it down but I might also involve others or ask anyone not involved to step aside. And my family especially knows to get outta the way when they see a certain *look*.

    A few years ago, we had a local coffee place who encouraged folks to come in and participate in NaNoWriMo. They would give each person a free cuppa, had free Wi-Fi and it was lovely!

  2. Since I retired and don’t have time limits, I kind of go at it when I feel like it. Not the best system. Since I retired I have been trying to declutter my house. I estimate that in 11 years, I’ve only made it about a third of the way through it. I think I’ll try a modified version of the “bag a day” system. I’ll shoot for a bag a week and see how I do.

  3. I break big tasks down into manageable pieces. Sometimes, it takes awhile to figure out which pieces work best together.

    I am the Treasurer of my dog club, and it’s OVERWHELMING! I get at least a dozen requests each week. I organize bank deposits on Saturday mornings and write checks on Sundays. And answer emails daily, review insurance policies and keep receipts straight. This has been my part time unpaid job. I am fortunate that the past treasurer has been supporting me as we transition bank accounts and knowledge.

    I have made a 2 year commitment to this position….and then retire from it! It helps that there is an end date.

  4. In my younger days I would go all-in to clean, declutter, paint the house, etc. Now that I’m no longer in the first blush of youth, I tend to break the tasks into manageable time. Two hours of work and I’m done no matter if the job is done.

  5. I don’t need Jack at any price, LOL. I have him in hard copy (my favorite) and audio (my second favorite).

    I am feeling inspired by the idea that lots of people are striving for something. I am going to start with a small bag perhaps to get myself started! I can do this…. I CAN

    My goal is a Zen type environment, or my interpretation of it (light cool colors, same old familiar furniture, no more than 2 piles).

  6. I don’t need Jack at any price, LOL. I have him in hard copy (my favorite) and audio (my second favorite).

    I am feeling inspired by the idea that lots of people are striving for something. I am going to start with a small bag perhaps to get myself started! I can do this…. I CAN

    My goal is a Zen type environment, or my interpretation of it (light cool colors, same old familiar furniture, no more than 2 piles).

  7. I am very much a plug away until its done kind of person. And my husband is a procrastinate for years but maybe never actually get it done even at the last second kind of person. This creates a lot of friction! But I don’t want to reward his sloth by doing his part for him. Ugh. Things are always a compromise, are they not?!
    I am excellent at plugging away at something in small chunks in a dedicated and consistent manner. We’re downsizing, and every day I scan 5 documents that I pulled from the file drawer so that I can throw away the paper copies.
    The problem? My husband is in charge of picking and procuring the software to back up the scanned documents. So who knows when I’ll actually be able to throw away the paper copies, secure in the knowledge that we have a cloud back-up and a local physical backup-up too.
    I have digitized all of my cd’s so that I don’t need to keep the plastic cd’s. I did it the same way. Ripped 5 cd’s a day to the PC. He still has a box of cd’s that he was supposed to have sorted through and downloaded what he wants- 5 years ago! But my part, at least, is getting accomplished.

  8. I have to do bit by bit. And it helps me stay on track if I think of each small step as its own achievement instead of part of the goal.

  9. My most efficient mode of operation is all out. However, as a wife, mother, daughter, dog owner and member of the human race, I find that isn’t usually possible as I value those goals most. As “all out” I’d finish a project not knowing if I’d eaten, slept, bathed… I see that in a sister who is single and sometimes seems a little other worldly as when she’s working, she’s not doing anything else. The first thing we ask when she hits the wall is, “Have you eaten?” The next is “When is the last time you went to bed?”

    As is, I try to picture the end goal from the beginning and work backwards, gathering supplies, making plans, enlisting personnel. Last Christmas was a six month project and came off well although not as I had envisioned it. But I was prepared!

  10. I’ve been trying to declutter in prep for a probable move in a year or so – I hope that if I do it bit by bit it won’t be so overwhelming. I’m going thru my Dad’s National Geographics while I have the tv on, I’m gathering things for the animal shelter (blankets, towels, sheets), putting things aside for family members (and if they don’t want them they’ll go into a garage sale or get donated). Since I have several processes going at once, I have lots of piles so it look kind of messy, but my goal is to clear out a lot by the end of November so I can get into Christmas mode.

  11. I tend to approach big jobs in a step by step fashion – depending on the job either on my own or with a group – but no matter what breaking it down into smaller parts makes it much easier and less overwhelming. If the task is organizing my books, no one is going to be helping me thank you very much. If the task is attempeting to remove wallpaper that was applied over 20 years ago? I’ll take all the help I can get (especially since my balance hasn’t come all the way back and ladders and I are barely on speaking terms).

  12. I, too, am a “break it into doable pieces” person, probably because that’s how I learned to write computer programs and how I taught others to do so. But, like “Make Kay,” I have a partner who promises to do something “soon” and doesn’t get to it for sometimes years. If it’s something small that I can do, I will probably do it (throw out old empty bottles, for instance) but some of what needs to be done needs his muscle and I can’t. It is frustrating so I can only take solace in getting my part done. And, by the way, I have to admit that I sometimes procrastinate and read a book instead, but that’s just caring for my mental health!

  13. My kindle is playing up at the moment and not allowing me to finish my reply to this week’s topic.So I’ll keep it short and sweet .Now I’m in the older set my attitude to tasks,projects,chores is the complete opposite to what it was when I was younger.I wake each morning and set out with good intentions and start on said task,but it soon becomes a non event. I put the kettle on for a cup of tea and say goodbye to the task.Tomorrow I’ll have another go!!.That’s Life why worry.

  14. Never heard of 40 bags, 40 days. I need to do this and somehow hold myself accountable as I also don’t do social media/crowd things. Hmmm, giving this more thought.

  15. Manageable chunks is the only way I can get through large tasks. I generally start with time chunks, especially if the underlying components are not already reasonably organized. Later, they are task chunks (e.g., clearing out x drawers.

    Best of luck with your NaNoWriMo activities!

  16. To make a big change, I round up a team! I can’t imagine doing anything that requires that sort of lift without rallying the troops. I really am at home improvement/cleaning projects, so I usually enlist my sister. For other projects, my husband or friend.

  17. I fear that I just avoid big jobs. I might overplan how to do it. But, eventually, I do have to break it into teeny tiny pieces to get started.

  18. We recently downsized to a Condo from a fully loaded house.. it was traumatic, we decided to do it, on the spur of the moment. But, I had put it off for years, I can’t say I am happy. I wonder what I missed in the move, but being without much of the baggage we have moved with is surprising wonderful. It was just possessions, We loved them and used them, but gave them up!